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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

Article

Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

Article

Marinelle Ringer

journalist, author, and public speaker, was born Melba Joy Pattillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Howell “Will” Pattillo, a hostler's helper for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Lois Marie Peyton Pattillo, a junior high school English teacher who was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Arkansas (graduating in 1954). In 1957, spurred by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, mandating public school desegregation, Beals, at the age of fifteen, became one of the first African American students—later known as the “Little Rock Nine”—to enroll in Central High School, then Arkansas' finest high school.

Prior to 1957 Beals s deepest anguish had been her parents divorce when she was seven She found solace in the hours she spent with her cherished grandmother India Anette Peyton while her mother worked and studied and ...

Article

Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

Article

Robin Jones

actor, was born in Texas. Little is known of his early life or how he came to film. He played, often uncredited, a series of African or South Seas characters in mainstream adventure movies such as King Kong and Tarzan. He is best remembered for his role as Big Sam in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind and is an example of an actor making the most of what was available to him in a period of segregation and extreme stereotyping in movies.

Brown's first credited movie role was as Nahalo, an island “native” in the 1923 silent movie South Sea Love. He continued with roles of this ilk, playing natives or Africans in Danger Island (1931), Hell's Headquarters (1932), and Kongo (1932). That same year he had a small part in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang ...

Article

Patit Paban Mishra

academician, businessperson, author, talk-show host, and journalist. The fifth son of Royal Brown and Katherine Davis Brown, William Anthony Brown was born in Charleston, West Virginia. The marriage of his parents broke down in the racist environment of Charleston. His father was a light-skinned person, whereas his mother was of dark color. For several years he was raised by a foster family, Elizabeth Sanford and Mabel Holmes, before he was reunited with his mother and three siblings. Brown had a turbulent childhood, but by sheer determination, perseverance, and hard work along with the support of his foster parents and several school teachers, he rose in life—primarily through education. After high school he attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he earned a BA in sociology (1959) and an MSW in psychiatric social work (1961).

After graduation Brown obtained a ...

Article

Malaika B. Horne

activist, lawyer, politician, talk show host, and actor. Willie Lewis Brown Jr. was born in the East Texas town of Mineola to Minnie Collins Boyd and Willie Lewis Brown Sr. during the grinding poverty of the Great Depression. His grandmother Anna Lee Collins primarily raised Brown, his brother, and his three sisters. Racial oppression and extreme violence created even greater dangers and hardships for Brown's family as for many black families during the era. Affectionately called “Brookie” during his childhood, Brown performed such menial labor as picking cotton and shining shoes, yet his family's ingenuity helped overcome much of the abject poverty that most experienced. His enterprising family, including bootleggers and gamblers, greatly influenced him, particularly his strong people skills.

As a teenager Brown was gregarious and outspoken His grandmother feared for his life so hostile were whites to any kind of black self assertion ...

Article

Thomas Aiello

journalist and jazz musician, was born Daniel Gardner Burley in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of James Burley, a former slave and Baptist minister, and Anna Seymour Burley, an educator who served under Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute. His father died when he was five years old, and in 1917 his mother, then remarried, moved the family to Chicago. Accounts differ as to whether Burley graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, but he attended, and his experience there cultivated a talent for writing, and his extracurricular activity taught him the jazz piano.

Burley began writing for the Chicago Defender between 1925 and 1928, according to some accounts while he was still attending high school. After leaving the weekly newspaper, Burley traveled the country, making his living through odd jobs and piano playing before returning to write for the Chicago Bee in 1932 He acted as ...

Article

Robyn McGee

journalist, radio broadcaster, and founder of Calvin's News Service, was born in Washington,-Arkansas, to Joseph Edward and Hattie Ann (Mitchell). Calvin attended the Rural School in Clow, Arkansas, until the seventh grade. From 1916 to 1920 he attended Shover State Teacher Training College in Arkansas, and from 1920 to 1921 he was enrolled at Townsend Harris Hall, City College in New York City.

In 1922, shortly after leaving City College, Calvin was hired by the labor activist A. Philip Randolph as the associate editor of The Messenger magazine. The Messenger—the third most popular magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, after The Crisis and Opportunity—had been founded in 1917 by Randolph and the economist Chandler Owen to advance the cause of socialism to the black masses. They believed that a socialist society was the only one that would be free from racism. The Messenger contained poetry stories and ...

Article

Christine G. Brown

writer and editor, was born in 1890; his parents’ names and his birthplace are now unknown. Little is known of his early life and education. He married Thelma Johnson, with whom he had one daughter. Carter and his wife lived in New York City at the same address, 409 Edgecombe Avenue, from the 1940s until their deaths.

A devoted New Yorker, Carter was a prolific writer and speaker for civil rights, especially concerning jobs, housing, and public office. A committed member of the National Urban League, on 23 July 1928 he delivered a speech on employment and fair housing issues during Negro Week on the Common. In September of that year he took over the editorship of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, the Urban League's in-house magazine, when Charles Spurgeon Johnson stepped down as editor With more than 10 000 subscribers when Carter took over the ...

Article

Rebecca L. Hankins

journalist, educator, lecturer, and actress, was born Marguerite Phillips Dorsey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child of Joseph A. Dorsey, an architect and real estate broker, and Mary Louise Ross. Marguerite Cartwright's early education was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She later earned her BS Ed. and MA degrees from Boston University in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Her master's thesis was on the African origins of drama, contending that the Greek god Dionysus was an African. She married the chemical engineer Leonard Carl Cartwright in 1930, an interracial union that lasted over fifty years, until his death in 1982.

Cartwright combined her academic interest in theater with an application as an actress in a number of plays and films, including the play Roll Sweet Chariot (1934) in New York City and the film Green Pastures (1935 Simultaneously working as an actress and a ...

Article

Elizabeth Brown-Guillory

Alice Childress was never flattered by the litany of firsts that were used to refer to her works She believed that when people have been barred from something for so long it seems ironic to emphasize the first Instead Childress looked to the day when she would be the fiftieth or one hundredth African American artist to accomplish something Long regarded as a champion of the masses of poor people in America Childress wrote about the disparity between rich and poor underscoring that racism and sexism are added burdens forced upon women of color A reticent and private person Childress boldly spoke out in her works against an American government that either exploits or ignores poor people in the name of capitalism One of Childress s strongest convictions was that black authors must explore and include black history in their writings Her sagacity and commitment to preserving black culture and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

reporter and columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, New York City radio journalist, special assistant to New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, and member of several government panels on women's advocacy and cultural institutions, was born Evelyn Elizabeth Long in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. She was the only daughter and eldest child of Clyde L. and Mary Irvin Whitehurst Long.

Her father ran a pool hall in Elizabeth City, then moved the family, including son Clyde W., born in 1918, to New York. He found work there as a hotel bellman, and later drove a taxi, while Mary Long found work as a dressmaker to a private family. In New York, Evelyn Long graduated from Hunter College High School in 1934 During a life of ninety four years she married four times outliving all four husbands She had no children and took the name she used professionally ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

writer, performer, and teacher, was born Barbara Davis in Hampton, Virginia, the youngest of four children of Willie Louise Barbour and Collis H. Davis. Her parents were educators at Hampton University, the traditionally black college once attended by Booker T. Washington. Her mother died in 1955, when Davis was only seven years old. Davis graduated from the Putney School in Vermont in 1966, received her bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1970, and did graduate work at both Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

By the age of twenty Davis was publishing and performing her poetry. While living in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, she wrote and performed with Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn and other spoken word artists all members of a group called the Third World Artists Collective During this time she also worked as a reporter for the San Francisco ...

Article

Virginia Whatley Smith

W. E. B. Du Bois argued in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) that African Americans possessed a unique “double consciousness” because of their “twin rooted” heritage of being both African and American. For William Demby, this dichotomy of racial and national oppositions became an asset rather than a handicap. Born 25 December 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Demby spent his formative years in a middle-class, multiethnic neighborhood where its three African American families resided harmoniously with first-generation immigrants. Individualism prevailed concomitantly with nationalism so that people felt proudly ethnic, but still American, recalls Demby. He never felt divided because of nationalistic practices of discriminating against blacks.

Demby's parents, however, experienced the color problem that Du Bois predicted would be facing the twentieth century. William Demby and Gertrude Hendricks had been aspiring architectural and medical students to Philadelphia s colleges but were denied entrance They lived during the ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

an early New Orleans radio show host, who made his name in rhythm and blues, but devoted most of his life to gospel, was born Vernon Winslow in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Harry and Lenora Winslow; his father was the foreman at a sign company, while his mother stayed home raising seven children. Four brothers and two sisters were all born in Ohio; their father was born in Indiana around 1886, and their mother in Kentucky around 1888.

By 1930, his father was gone, probably deceased, and Lenora Winslow was raising her family in Chicago Illinois The oldest sons Wendell and Vernon were the primary breadwinners working as a porter for a retail store and a messenger at the office of an oil company respectively Somehow carrying this responsibility at the age of nineteen Winslow was able to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta then ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, was born McKinley Howard Dorham in Fairfield, Texas. His father played guitar, while his mother and sister played piano. He began studying piano when he was seven. Dorham did not start on the trumpet until he was already in high school but he caught on pretty fast. After graduation, while attending pharmacy school at Wiley College, he also played trumpet in the school's dance band.

Dorham served in the army during 1942–1943. After his discharge, he began his career as a trumpeter. He worked briefly with Russell Jacquet's band in Houston before moving to New York. Dorham adjusted his style easily to the new bebop music and soon became an important part of the New York jazz scene. He worked in 1945 with Dizzy Gillespie's first big band, where he was sometimes featured singing blues; he played with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra the following ...

Article

Miranda Kaufmann

Classical musician and war correspondent born in British Guiana (now Guyana). Dunbar began his musical career with the British Guianan militia band. He moved to New York at the age of 20, where he studied music at Columbia University. In 1925 he moved to Paris, where he studied music, journalism, and philosophy. By 1931 he had settled in London and founded the Rudolph Dunbar School of Clarinet Playing. The same year Melody Maker invited him to contribute a series of articles on the clarinet. These were successful enough for him to publish in 1939A Treatise on the Clarinet (Boehm System). Dunbar was a successful conductor, especially in the 1940s, when he became the first black man to conduct an orchestra in many of the prestigious cities of Europe, including, in 1942 the London Philharmonic at the Albert Hall to an audience of 7 000 people the Berlin ...

Article

Íde Corley

actor, journalist, and Pan-African activist, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to an Egyptian father and a Sudanese mother. In various documents he called his father, who was an army officer, either “Abbas Mohammed Ali” or “Abdul Salem Ali.” Early in his life Duse was separated from his family and forgot any knowledge of Arabic. He claimed to have been brought to England at the age of nine by a French officer with whom his father had studied at a military academy. In 1882 his father was killed by a British naval bombardment in a nationalist uprising at Tel el Kebir and his mother returned to the Sudan bringing Duse s sisters with her He subsequently lost all communication with his family During his early theatrical career in London he adopted the non Arabic name Duse maintaining that it derived from the surname ...